Peak Season Best Flavor
So, what’s the big deal? Rainier Cherries are super-sweet, juicy and bursting with bright flavor. This type of sweet cherry is characterized by yellow flesh, high sugar content and gold skin blushed with patches of bright red. The amount of redness is not an indicator of sweetness. Yes, they are pricier than Dark Sweet Cherries (which are also at their best, by the way), but it’s nice to splurge on a seasonal treat from time to time. Organic and conventional Rainier Cherries are in peak season from the mountain slopes and valleys of eastern Washington now through mid to late July. The quality and flavor so far this season have been amazing!
- Sticker-shock? Even during peak season, Cherries can surprise you at the register, so buy smart. Most Rainier Cherries are sold in smaller bags and pouches that weigh around 1.2-1.5lb. The average random-weight bag on display for Dark Sweet Cherries weighs about 2.2lb. Bagged Cherries are sold by the pound, so do the math or check a scale to know about what you’re going to pay in total.
- Selecting: Carefully inspect all sides of the Cherry packages to avoid wetness or splits. If the Cherries are in a bag, give a couple a gentle squeeze – you’ll want them to feel firm.
- Storage: Keep Cherries cold in the fridge and use them within a few days of purchase for the best texture. Rinse Cherries just before use and put whatever you don’t eat back in the refrigerator.
Cherry gold! Sweet, plump and juicy Rainier Cherries are a produce delicacy – available from late June through July. WARNING: Rainier Cherries may cause compulsive fruit snacking.
Peak Season Best Flavor
- How do you find a good one? Select Plums that don’t feel rock hard, but are not soft and squishy either. It doesn’t hurt to ask the produce manager for a sample either.
- Store Plums you plan to eat soon at room temperature for a day. You can eat them firm but just a little give is ideal for a juicy-sweet eating experience. Once at that stage you can get another couple days out of them in the fridge.
- What is that powder-like film on the skin? It’s called “bloom.” Bloom is a natural, protective wax that forms on the fruit as it grows on the tree. When you rub a Plum or Pluot it gets it’s shine from the bloom.
Recipe: Sweet & Tangy Plum Salsa
- Step 1 – Produce Prep.
- 2lb of Tomatoes (like 1 cluster of Vine Tomatoes), washed, core stem area, cut into wedges
- 3-4 Plums or Pluots, washed, pit removed, cut into wedges (Plums can be substituted)
- 1 medium-large Sweet Onion, skin removed, cut into wedges
- In a blender or food processor-separately pulse prepped Tomatoes, Plums and Sweet Onion until diced
- Place diced ingredients in a large mixing bowl
- Empty bowl contents into a colander to strain excess juice for about 10-15 seconds
- Return strained ingredients to the large bowl
- Add .75 oz (about a handful) of fresh Cilantro, finely chopped
- Sprinkle with Salsa Seasoning until evenly covered. I used about 1oz of Mrs. Wages Salsa Mix. (Salt, Pepper, Cheyenne Pepper, Cumin, Garlic Powder could be used instead)
- Stir thoroughly, allow to set for 10 minutes
- Enjoy within 48 hours, keep refrigerated
Peak Season Best Flavor Value Priced
Athena-style Cantaloupes are now in peak season from farms in Georgia and the next few weeks will be an excellent time to eat them. The fruit took longer than usual to ripen in the fields for those farmers, but here in late June the harvests are abundant and prices are falling. Eastern ‘Lopes are not popular or available everywhere, mostly because their soft flesh and high sugar content translates into shorter shelf-life at the store and at home. But in my book, I’d take great flavor over shelf-life any day!
- Select Athena Cantaloupes with a straw color and plenty of webbing on the rind.
- Avoid Athena Cantaloupes with: holes, soft spots, sunken areas, large smooth spots, stems still attached the fruit or a squishy feel.
- Ripening: Most Eastern ‘Lopes are ready to eat right away. But I typically store Athena Cantaloupes at room temperature until the fruit emits a sweet tropical aroma and the end opposite the stem gives just slightly to thumb pressure. Refrigerate after cutting.
- VIDEO: the difference between Eastern ‘Lopes and traditional Western Cantaloupes.
- In late July and during August local Athena’s will be in season here in the Mid-Atlantic region.
- Can’t find Athena Cantaloupes (Eastern Cantaloupes) but still want a melon with big flavor? Keep an eye out for in-season heirloom-type Tuscan-style Cantaloupes from Arizona and California.
Sweet and juicy Athena-style Cantaloupes are now in peak season from the Southeast. Ripe ones will emit a pleasing tropical aroma.
Peak Season Best Flavor
MY CONFESSSION: I love root vegetables… except for Beets. Beets have a forward, earthy flavor that people tend to love or loathe. Unfortunately, I’ve been in the “loathe” camp since childhood, but have tried them a few times recently to make sure my taste buds (or my mind) haven’t changed. The taste of Beets has been described as “sweet dirt” – that is about as polite as I can be when talking about then. But for your sake, I hope you love Beets and can enjoy some here in late June and early July while the local crop is at its best! I actually do wish I liked them.
Seedless Mini Cucumbers
Peak Season Value Priced
Seedless Mini Cucumbers have become more popular with fresh veggie lovers and more readily available on produce department shelves recently. Why? You eat them whole! Sure you can cut the ends off, but really – no prep other than a quick rinse in water is needed. The skins on these 4-5” Cukes are thin and less bitter than field Cucumbers. The mild flavor and crunch will be appreciated by the whole family. Plus, they’re a seedless, juicy, healthy and fun snack.
Some large greenhouse growers just off Lake Erie in Ontario, Canada are into a bumper-crop of Seedless Mini Cucumbers here in late June and early July. Be on the lookout for advertised or in-store specials as growers help retailers move their harvest flush. Typically sold in tray packs or bags, you may find them branded as “Crunchers,” “Persian Pickles,” “One Sweet Mini Cucumbers” or “Mini Cukes.” Seedless Mini Cucumbers are perfect for crunchy snacking, veggie trays and quick “refrigerator pickle” recipes.